Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Brits, like UNDP-USA, support Pakistan

The UK's Department for International Development (DFID) has recently pledged $35 million to Pakistani NGOs in order to promote good governance and state accountability programs. UNDP in Pakistan will be responsible for administering these funds appropriately.

UNDP-USA also supported a project of its own in Pakistan last year, working on long-term efforts to support the MDGs, particularly addressing education and health care:

UNDP-USA worked in partnership with UNDP through the Global Resource Mobilization Program, identifying and leveraging private contributions in the United States, particularly from the Pakistan-American Diaspora population, to support the project in Pakistan. To date, UNDP-USA has provided $1.4 million to UNDP Pakistan in support of the work of UNDP in achieving the MDGs in Pakistan.
See here to read more about this and other UNDP-USA projects.

Creating Corporate Responsibility

Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe has experienced economic growing pains. With the transition from state-controlled economies to market-centered ones, business has been in overdrive. In the push for profits, the fast growth of the private sector in this region has left behind and further marginalized some societal groups. That's where institutions and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) come into play.

UNDP firmly believes that CSR can foster social cohesion, and has therefore decided to fund a project to study and support companies that integrate social and environmental concerns into their business operations.

An important recommendation is that there needs to be greater cooperation between the government, civil society and businesses in order to ensure the future success of CSR. The project aims to advance the implementation of CSR practices in Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Lithuania, Macedonia, Poland, Slovak Republic and Turkey.

UNDP often provides services to countries at a higher policy level, putting in place trickle-down mechanisms to ensure that reforms reach the groups most in need of social or economic change.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Support for Live Earth

Climate change needs attention now! This is the message behind Live Earth, a 24-hour, 7-continent concert series taking place on July 7 that will bring together more than 100 music artists and 2 billion people. Participating cities are New York, London, Johannesburg, Rio de Janeiro, Shanghai, Tokyo, Sydney and Hamburg.

This movement, spearheaded by Al Gore and Emmy-winning producer Kevin Wall, is designed to trigger a response to issues such as global warming and the negative impact climate changes will have on the poorest populations of the world.

The UNDP is a major sponsor of the event. In collaboration with the UN Environment Program (UNEP) the UNDP works to spread awareness about the importance of addressing Millennium Development Goal 7, which is to "ensure environmental sustainability."

Proceeds from Live Earth will support a new campaign being launched to combat the climate crisis. This campaign will be led by the Alliance for Climate Protection and other international environmental NGOs. The goal of this campaign will be to mobilize organizations, businesses, governments and individuals to combat global warming.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Empowering female enterprise in Kenya

Experts argue that women are an essential yet untapped resource in fostering sustainable development. This advice seldom translates into action – that is until now.

Today, Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki launched a Sh5 billion funding partnership between Equity Bank in Kenya and the UNDP. This Women’s Fund will benefit more than 2,000 women entrepreneurs in the Small and Micro Enterprise sector, traditionally neglected and underfunded.

These funds were allocated in response to a household survey indicating that 61% of household entrepreneurs in Kenya are women. By providing loans to these women, the government hopes to spur community based and women driven economic growth.

To boost the competitiveness of female enterprise and help women identify new markets for their products the UNDP will offer women focused trainings. “The target is to increase the number of businesses owned and managed by women making them globally competitive,” says Elizabeth Lwanga of UNDP.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Paying attention to the Arctic

According to Sheila Watt-Cloutier, "Ice represents life" in the Arctic communities of Canada. This Inuit activist has recently won the UNDP's Award for Excellence in Human Development.

Watch this video for an interview in which she describes the importance of preserving the Arctic, especially given its impact on global climate change.

More Development Awards

The UNDP has recently announced the recipients of its 5 Human Development Awards, which are granted every 2 years. These awards honor National and Regional Human Development Reports that successfully influence development policy. These reports are prepared by national teams in UNDP Country Offices.

The 2006 awards were given to teams in:

1. Costa Rica, Excellence in HD Innovations-Concepts OR Measurement
2. Chhatisgarh, India, Excellence in Participation and Capacity Building Process
3. China, Excellence in Policy Analysis and Influence
4. Guinea-Bissau, Excellence in Support of the Millennium Development Goals:
5. Asia Pacific, Excellence and Innovation across HDR corporate principles for a Regional HDR

In 2006, the UNDP HD Report focused on water and its impact on poverty. This year, the theme will be 'Human Development and Climate Change,' one of the greatest challenges facing the UNDP in the upcoming decades.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Microfinance in Malawi

Lack of credit is possibly the biggest challenge for small enterprises attempting to survive in markets of impoverished nations. To respond to this, the UNDP has set up several microfinance programs in the developing world, to be managed and implemented by each individual country office.

Yesterday, the Government of Malawi and the UN agreed upon a microfinancing project to increase access to financial services for low income population groups.

In Malawi, only 3% of the population has access to saving services while a marginal 1% access credit. Insurance services are virtually absent, and the percentage of poor families with access to any financial services in rural areas is even lower.
The UNDP's newly approved microfinance project will hopefully respond to these problems by providing basic services, such as loans, savings, payment services, money transfers and insurance to poor and vulnerable people in Malawi. The UNDP and the UN Capital Development Fund will each contribute 2 million dollars to the project, which will run from 2007-2011.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

An Award for Activism

Congratulations to Ms. Sheila Watt-Cloutier for winning the prestigious Mahbub ul Haq Award for Excellence in Human Development.

According to UNDP, the award is presented every 2-3 years to a leader who has demonstrated outstanding commitment to furthering the understanding and progress of human development in a national, regional or global context.

Ms. Watt-Cloutier fits the bill. As an Inuit activist and political leader, she has fought tirelessly to raise global awareness about climate change on behalf of the Arctic communities of Canada, Alaska, Greenland and Russia, which are suffering from global warming effects. Ms. Watt-Cloutier also helped launch one of the world's first international legal actions on climate change, contending that unchecked gas emissions from the US violated Inuit cultural and environmental rights. Her inspiring leadership has brought global attention to global warming. It is now up to the world's leaders to take action.

Ms. Watt-Cloutier is also nominated for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Financing the MDGs

The international community has set itself a massive task: achieving all 8 Millennium Development Goals by 2015. This task is both ambitious and expensive.

The final meetings of 'Financing Development to achieve the MDGs' held yesterday in Doha, Qatar thoroughly examined this question. This conference, jointly hosted by Qatar and the President of the General Assembly, was designed to bring governments, the private sector, civil society and the UN system together to discuss new methods of advancing progress on the Millennium Declaration.

Focus was on how to make financial assistance to developing countries more predictable and consistent as well as to evaluate efforts to implement programs advancing the MDGs with this aid.

See here for information on how the UN will continue to follow-up this process, bringing the developing world one step closer to relief.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Africa Progress Panel

Despite promises of increased aid on the part of the international community and better governance on the part of the African leaders, the continent's long-term development has somehow been left behind.

Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan formed the Africa Progress Panel in June precisely to address this challenge. This independent group aims to put Africa back on track with respect to the Millennium Development Goals, ensuring that both Africans and donors live up to their commitments. The article, New group breathes fresh hope in Africa, quotes Annan:

“It is vital that Africa lead its own development process. The imperative lies with African leaders to make a difference. Africa’s effort to improve governance and place international development goals, such as the MDGs, at the centre of their policies have shown positive results.”

Other members of the panel include Michel Camdessus, Peter Eigen, Bob Geldof, Robert Rubin, Graca Machel and Muhammed Yunus, a group that includes development experts, businessmen, and Nobel Laureates.

More information on the Panel can be found here.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Channeling aid to Somalia

Most of the time, it is not enough to simply give aid. Donors need to know what their money will be used for.

Yesterday, the US pledged $4 million in development aid to Somalia after several stalled attempts due to insecurity in Mogadishu and difficulties in gathering funding. A statement from the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi said the funds would include 1.25 million dollars for the upcoming National Reconciliation Congress set for July 15.

The UNDP will act as the vehicle for this aid, ensuring that it is effectively delivered to organizations with expertise in providing emergency services to the population.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

On the scene in Bangladesh

Though the UNDP does not specialize in immediate aid and relief, it recognizes a humanitarian crisis when it sees one.

Mudslides caused by heavy rains in Chittagong, Bangladesh have inundated one-third of the city, affecting the lives of approximately 1.5 million people.

Yesterday, the UNDP in Bangladesh allocated $20,000 to complement national efforts to respond to the emergency, as well as five vehicles, including fuel and drivers, to support ongoing relief operations.

Beyond this emergency aid, UNDP has several ongoing projects in the country relating to disaster prevention and environmental sustainability. These projects are designed to build Bangladesh's capacity including helping Bangladesh develop emergency response strategies.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Improved management

The UN is incapable of reform? Look again.

UNDP is working to improve its management by adopting a series of measures, such as financial disclosure and standardizing information available on the Internet, to improve efficiency and accountability at the agency.

Other measures include the establishment last year of an independent audit advisory committee which has since met four times. “In the ongoing dialogue, it is extremely useful to get that external advice; it’s the first time UNDP has opened up itself to that,” Associate Administrator Mr. Melkert said.

More on-the-ground help for South Sudan

Go local - this is the conventional wisdom behind development strategy. The UNDP takes this to heart when implementing projects in the field both by working with local partners and facilitating progress at the micro level.

Recently, the UNDP - working through its country office and with NGOs - has helped the local government of South Sudan set up 15 clinics to treat tuberculosis and test for HIV. 100 out of 1,000 South Sudanese are currently infected with TB and do not have access to health care. This is particularly frustrating because TB is easily curable with appropriate medical attention.

The UNDP, following a funding agreement last month, has also implemented training programs in local prisons to educate both warders and inmates about their rights, as well as the protocol for requesting and providing services.

Click here to watch two great videos on UNDP's work in South Sudan, as well as in several other African nations.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Teach a village to fish...

The Millennium Villages seek to end extreme poverty by working with the poorest of the poor, village by village throughout Africa, in partnership with governments and other committed stakeholders, providing affordable and science-based solutions to help people lift themselves out of extreme poverty. Teach a village to fish and watch development flourish.

Work is being done in more than 75 villages in ten different countries: Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda. Interventions include the following areas: nutrition, agriculture, gender equality, health, water, environment and infrastructure.

Watch this video for reasons why Jeffrey Sachs believes this project is a success.

Donate here to help villagers save themselves.

Africa needs more help

A report recently released by the UN stated that Africa is behind on achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

There were, however, several success stories that provide hope for the future:

  • Ghana is successfully implementing a national school feeding program using locally produced foods.
  • Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and many other countries have abolished fees for primary schools resulting in dramatic increases in enrolment during the space of a few years.
  • In 2006 Zambia cancelled fees for basic rural health services and Burundi introduced free medical care for mothers and children.
  • With support from the Red Cross Red Crescent, WHO, UNICEF and the US Centers for Disease Control, African countries such as Niger, Togo and Zambia have successfully launched national campaigns for measles vaccination and distribution of long-lasting insecticide-treated anti-malaria bed nets.
  • In Niger, hundreds of thousands of people in rural communities greatly improved their livelihoods and reduced their vulnerability to droughts through large-scale reforestation driven by national policy reforms.
  • Senegal is on track to achieving the water and sanitation goals through a national investment program financed with donor support.
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon requested more aid from developed countries during the G8 meetings in Germany in order to implement the UN's MDG practical plan. More generosity combined with genuine will and effort on behalf of African countries will set the continent back on track. Much like climate change, poverty all over Africa can be significantly reduced if all countries work together.

See here for ways you can get involved with the MDG campaign!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Less armed violence, more development

When it comes to development, governments are getting better at setting concrete goals for cooperation.

Today, 42 governments adopted the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development, hosted by the UNDP and the government of Switzerland.

If we are to have a chance of achieving the MDGs, we have to take an active interest in combating the illicit trade in small arms. The Geneva Declaration on armed violence and development, which we adopt this afternoon, clearly states our objective: Reduce armed violence by 2015.
Click here to read the Declaration.

Business and the MDGs

Ted Turner - the founder of CNN and the UN Foundation - has a nice op-ed in his hometown Atlanta Journal-Constitution on the MDGs.

In addition to calling on fellow business leaders to embrace the goals, he notes that

the attainability of the MDGs requires entrepreneurial ingenuity and a business skill-set. It takes smart entrepreneurs and trained managers to find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, raise people out of poverty, supply HIV/AIDs patients with treatments and more.

Supporting the private sector in creating innovative solutions and jobs is an important part of development. UNDP has long recognized the importance of private sector development in achieving the goals through their ground breaking Unleashing Entrepreneurship report and programs like the Growing Sustainable Business initiative, which facilitate business-led solutions to poverty and the MDGs.

When you boil these global challenges down to their essence, what is at stake in the long-term if we fail in this effort — our livelihood and life's work, our global security, the welfare of our very children — is far greater than the risk of not getting involved.
For ideas on what you can do, check out here or here.

Women, you can vote too

Papua New Guineans will go to the polls at the end of this month to elect their new national leaders – but with one big change.

With the help of the UNDP’s Women’s Empowerment initiative, separate compartments for women voters will be set up at polling booths so that they can cast their votes in privacy. In the past, women voters have been intimidated by husbands, male relatives or other partisans, preventing them from voting for their preferred candidate. Workshops held by UNIFEM have also been conducted to train future female candidates in good governance and transparent leadership.

This is just one way the UNDP helps the voice of women be heard all over the world.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Malaria Kills, Nets Save Lives

Quick congratulations to our friends at UNF on their Nothing but Nets campaign winning a Webby yesterday. They received the People's Voice award in the non profit category.

If you haven't already, I strongly encourage you to learn more about their fight against malaria in Africa and how just $10 can make a difference.


In the very long run, the true measure of success for development organizations is whether a country is able to grow, prosper, and no longer need aid. The small Baltic country of Lithuania is one success story. Since the end of the Cold War, with the help of organizations like UNDP, they have been able to transition to a flourishing democracy with a flourishing market economy. In 2004 their success was recognized with their acceptance into the EU and WTO.

While Lithuania needs help from UNDP less and less, they have learned valuable lessons that can help other developing countries. To help them begin making the transition from recipient to donor, UNDP has launched the Time to Help Others campaign. If you speak Lithuanian, you can check out the tv spot they produced.
The campaign is designed to "inform the public about development... increase awareness of development issues among members of the Parliament... establishing a database of Lithuanian [development] experts as well as defining the areas in which Lithuania can co-operate" and helping the government create their own overseas development agency.

Environmental refugees

The UN Environment Program (UNEP) called for far greater action on climate change yesterday during events of World Environment Day, established by the UN General Assembly in 1972 to raise global awareness of the environment and boost political attention and action. This year's theme is Melting Ice: A Hot Topic? though all aspects of climate change have recently climbed to the top of UNDP's and other UN agencies agendas.

Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP observed that climate change is “magnifying existing disparities between rich and poor” and “aggravating tensions over fragile or increasingly scarce natural resources” such as productive land and freshwater. “It increases the potential to create a new class of displaced people known collectively as environmental refugees,” Mr. Steiner warned.
Climate change is affecting the living conditions of those in the poorest countries of the world. By creating awareness and practical programs, UNEP has a chance to curb these negative side effects.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Helping Uzbekistan in every area of development

Central Asia, home to 56 million people in 5 countries, is the most landlocked region in the world, making it incredibly difficult to take advantage of its vast natural gas and oil reserves. Uzbekistan in particular suffers from this challenge.

In May, the UNDP held a "Strengthening partnerships for Human Development in Central Asia" conference in Kyrgyzstan. For the Uzbek government, the focus was on how to achieve the MDGs by 2015. UNDP projects in the country range from:

  • public finance reform
  • regional microfinance schemes
  • civil society and gender empowerment
  • water governance
  • energy and environmental sustainability

This list is far from exhaustive, and Uzbek officials have expressed gratitude to the UNDP for its commitment to development in the region. See here for an interview with Fikret Akcura, UNDP Resident Representative of Uzbekistan.

St. Lucia launches mechanism to track MDG progress

St. Lucia has recently launched its own adaptation of DevInfo 5.0, a mechanism to monitor statistics and indicators relating to progress achieved on the Millennium Development Goals. The interagency cooperation necessary to develop HelenInfo has already had a positive impact on efficiency in the country. See here for press release.

Respecting local traditions in Mt. Kenya

Global climate changes have led to the loss of Mt. Kenya’s glacial hat, which along with deforestation threatens a crucial source of water for millions of Kenyans. The UNDP-Compact project has brought together NGOs, community grouping and private companies to deal with this mounting problem.

The UN, government corporations and NGOs have been quick to exploit the mountain's immense spiritual significance to millions of the residents living around it. Some of the NGOs have joined hands with the National Museums of Kenya to initiate schemes that now "remind" relevant communities of the need to preserve and conserve sacred sites. They are now tapping into ancient, but evidently forgotten, taboos and myths to help secure the mountain's ecosystem from total ruin.

Whether helping trout farmers continue their business, aiding women’s groups to cultivate nurseries in the Mt. Kenya forest or generating electricity from River Tungo-Kabiri, the UNDP-Compact will work with local communities to preserve this entire area and its vital contribution to Kenyan society.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Project assessment in Saudi Arabia

The UNDP’s Office of Evaluation periodically conducts regional tours in order to assess the need for new country programs, as well as ensure the effectiveness of current ones.

A UNDP team has recently returned from Riyadh with the goal of initiating a five-year plan in the Kingdom. Input from the ministries of economy, planning and foreign affairs, UN project coordinators, heads of NGOs and media staff was used to assess the impact of the current programs.

“There are several programs coming up in the context of new country programs under the UNDP five-year plan,” said leader of the delegation George Zaidan, international consultant for the UNDP. He added that these projects are being negotiated with the respective countries for implementation.

Friday, June 1, 2007

UNDP supports ex-combatants in the DRC

Soldiers returning from combat find it incredibly difficult to reintegrate themselves into a community they have been absent from for several years. This scenario is often played out in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as ex-combatants return to their homes from a decade-long, devastating civil war.

Today, the UNDP launched a pilot DDR (Disarmament, Demobilization and Reinsertion) project to support more than 3,000 ex-combatants from three armed groups in the Ituri district of the DRC. $3 million, including a contribution from the US, has been pledged by the UNDP to implement this initiative, due to begin in a few weeks.

From previous experience, UNDP reckons that more than two thirds of the combatants will chose the option of returning to civilian life. With this option, the participants will receive a once off payment for transport and reintegration of $110. They will then be assigned to high intensity manual labour (HIMO) projects in the district, principally road rehabilitation, for a period of three months.
With renewed opportunities for reintegration into civilian life, many ex-combatants will hopefully find their way back into Congolese society, contributing to the long-term peace and stability of the DRC.